The Offer

The Offer

From Chicken Soup for the Dog Lover's Soul

The Offer

We were both pups when my parents got her—I about eighteen months old, she somewhat younger but older by far in wisdom and experience. She had already had a brief career in the movies, having played one of Daisy’s puppies in the Dagwood and Blondie films. But now, too old for the part, she had been given to my father in lieu of payment for a script he had turned in. He was a comedy writer for radio, and occasionally, movies, and excelled in writing jokes and scripts but not in collecting the fees owed him.

Her name was Chickie, and she was a wonderful mix of Welsh corgi and bearded collie. A white star blazed on her chest, and she had four white feet and a white-tipped tail to complement her long black fur. Even though she was scarcely over a year old, she was already motherly and sat by my crib for hours on end, making sure that no harm would come to me. If I cried, she would be off to my mother, insisting that she come immediately. If I wanted to play, she would bring toys, hers as well as mine.

My dad caught on that this was a special dog with high intelligence plus something else. He taught hermany tricks, learned from the dog trainers at the movie studio. Lassie’s trainers gave him pointers on how to get Chickie to respond to hand signals, as well as to climb ladders, bark on cue, walk on beach balls, dance on two legs and jump rope with a willing human. This she did readily and well, but there was more to her still—perhaps one could call it a deep sense of ethics. She seemed virtue incarnate, a Saint Francis of Assisi of dogs, who took on responsibilities of saintly cast. I thought of her as my sister and, what with all our travels, my constant companion and closest friend.

Thus it was a shock when one day one of the actors in a picture my father was working on came home with him, saw Chickie and immediately wanted to buy her.

“Jack,” said the actor, “that is the greatest dog I ever saw in my life. I’ll give you fifty bucks for that dog.”

“Can’t do it, pal,” said my father. “It’s the kid’s dog.”

The actor persisted. “I’ll give you a hundred bucks for the dog. I know you need the money.”

Indeed, we did, and driven by the panic of imminent poverty—the one thing he dreaded more than anything else—my father acted in an uncharacteristicmanner. Excusing himself, he went into the kitchen to discuss this with my mother.

“Certainly not!” she adamantly declared. “It’s Jeanie’s dog.”

“You’re right, Mary,” my father sheepishly agreed. “It’s just that I think I’m going to lose my job at the studio and am damned scared of not being able to bring home the bacon.”

“Well, you certainly cannot bring home the bacon by selling the child’s dog,” my mother fumed. “Anyway, if we go broke again, I’ll just do what I always do—start an acting school for children.”

A few days later the actor came back, saying, “Jack, I’ve got to have that dog on my ranch. I want that dog. I’ll give you 250 bucks for the dog.”

During this ordeal Chickie and I were sitting on the floor behind the couch, listening in horror. I was already making my running-away plans with her.

“Well, I sure do need the money,” said my father. “Just a minute; I’ve got to talk to my wife.”

“Mary, he’s offering 250 bucks for the dog! We can always get Jeanie a new dog at the pound!”

“No way!” said my mother.

The next day the actor returned. He had rarely known failure and was not about to start now. “Jack, I’ll give you 250 bucks and my secondhand car. I know you need a car to get around.”

“Wait a minute,” said my father. “I’m sure this time I can convince my wife.”

Upon hearing the latest offer, my mother, bless her heart, stormed out of the kitchen, stormed up to the actor and chewed him out.

“Ronald Reagan,” she railed, “how dare you try to take away my child’s dog!”

At least he knew a good dog when he saw one.

Jean Houston

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